Recovery from serious mental illness is not only possible, but for many people living with mental illness today, probable. The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives. Recovery is a holistic process that includes traditional elements of physical health, and aspects of recovery extend beyond medication. Recovery from serious mental illness also includes the idea of attaining and maintaining physical health as another cornerstone of wellness. People in recovery make important contributions to their communities. Hope for recovery should be reflected in all treatments, services, and supports.
The recovery journey is unique for each individual. There are several definitions of recovery; some grounded in medical and clinical values, some grounded in context of community and successful living. One of the most important principles of recovery is this: recovery is a process, not an event. The uniqueness and individual nature of recovery must be honored.
For NAMI, recovery is a foundational principle. While serious mental illness impacts individuals in many challenging ways, the concept that all individuals can move towards wellness is paramount. A strengths-based approach is a cornerstone for NAMI initiatives, activities, and efforts. Many, many NAMI members living with mental illness have benefited from the various opportunities within the organization. NAMI has become a vehicle for recovery, and a pathway towards wellness.
Specific NAMI initiatives developed to help the process of recovery are:
The Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course: a 9-week, experiential, illness management and wellness educational course taught by people in recovery, for people living with mental illness.
In Our Own Voice: a public awareness project built around a one-hour presentation by a person living with mental illness. An 11-minute video frames the presentation around dark days, acceptance, treatment and medications, and hopes and dreams.
NAMI Connection: a peer-led support group for adults living with mental illness.
Hearts and Minds: Learn about healthy, accessible and affordable lifestyle changes designed to reduce cardiac risk among people with mental illness.
The Provider Education Course: a 10-week initiative developed to raise awareness with mental health providers of the perspective of the impact mental illness has on the family and the individual. A team of persons living with mental illness, family members of a person living with mental illness, and a consumer- or family member-provider teaches the course.
National Consumer Council: the only nationally convened representative body of persons living with mental illness. The Council serves in an advisory capacity to the NAMI National Board of Directors, and includes subcommittees on the issues of Restraint and Seclusion; Ethics; and Education, Mentoring, and Outreach.
State level Consumer Councils: similar in structure and purpose to the National Consumer Council; but established as advisory bodies to some state NAMI Boards of Directors.
Leadership development opportunities are emerging as an important mechanism to help in the recovery process. The Consumer Councils are one important opportunity supported by NAMI. Experiential knowledge is a common theme in both leadership and recovery, and NAMI provides those experiences.
In summary, NAMI is dedicated to improving the lives of all those affected by mental illnesses. Whether by providing support, education, advocacy, or leadership experiences, all levels of NAMI are working every day to help. Recovery is possible, and people no longer need be defined by their illness, but rather by the goals, hopes, and dreams so vital to each of us.